There are dark days here. I pray the darkness will make the light all the brighter. The question for me is not, “Why are you sharing your struggles?!” But rather, “Why would you hide just how far God’s grace reaches?!”
The second year of bulimia brought a significant change in my life. For the first time, I held a positive pregnancy test. This must be God’s gateway to freedom! I had no doubt in my mind that I had found my answer. The love for this little child would motivate me to end my struggle finally. But, as often is the case, just as I seemed to find my mini savior, things spiraled down even further. Not only was my first pregnancy not the answer, but it ended up being the most intense time of bulimia that I had experienced up to that point.
For a short length of time, a week or two at best, I found that I was white-knuckling myself into a deliverance of my own making. How could I put my baby at such a risk? And so when I started purging again, I put on headphones to drown out the voice screaming at me that I did not love my baby. And the headphones were playing a pleasant song about how many women cannot keep things down while they are pregnant anyways, and their babies are still safe. Not surprisingly then, what had started off as believing that bulimia was over and done with, ended up being the year that bulimia raged the most violently.
While it was extremely difficult to write about how my early marriage was affected by bulimia, describing my pregnancies is even harder. Two of my babies would be born into the world with having daily experiences of what it was like to have a bulimic mother. They must have grown accustomed to the rhythms of puking. As I did not plan on returning to teach after having our baby, I had a few months where I was left to my own devices during the day. I became more and more consumed by purging. I woke up thinking about how long it was till Jeff left, so I could go out and buy my binge food. Having come home with everything Little Debbie, from donuts to cereal, from cookies to ice cream, I would eat EVERYTHING. I was becoming an expert on what foods were “binge-friendly” and which were not. After physically being able to hold no more, I’d complete the process in a garbage can. Then I’d make sure all the piles and piles of wrappers were discarded into the puke bag and bring my heavy load to the outside garbage can. As I came back inside, the load that I thought had just been put in the garbage can had actually been added on to the ever-increasing burden on my back.
One would think that would have satisfied me, but I wasn’t done. The relief and almost utopia-ish high I would get after a purge would fade within the hour, and slowly my hunger would start crying again. And so the whole process began again. It was not unusual for me to repeat the cycle 3 times in one morning. After multiple sessions, fear for my baby would begin to set in, and I would eat a small yogurt and do my best to ignore the hunger pains. Because my calorie intake for the day would amount to almost nothing, I had to resort to getting up in the middle of the night. I’d anxiously wait for Jeff to fall asleep, and then, being ravished by hunger, I’d sneak down to the kitchen and allow myself to eat my two “safe foods.” (I praise the Lord I did not know they were high in sugar, though natural, and fat! Oddly enough, they were raisins and cashews.) Day and night it consumed my life.
One afternoon, after having cleaned the house for overnight company, I left the house and drove through McDonalds to buy my binge food. Having finished my two hamburgers, chocolate milk shake, and fries, I began looking for a place to purge. I couldn’t return home, in case the guests had already arrived. I found myself turning into a lonely graveyard, and it was there, among the hundreds of dead, I found my spot. My only companions were the marked graves of the dead. They would keep my secret. While my husband laughed among dear friends, I lay hidden in a graveyard.
My OB appointments became a competition against myself to see how low I could keep my weight on the scale. Two days before my appointment I would be extra diligent to consume low calorie, low sodium food. At one point, my Obstetrician even told me, “Please go enjoy a McDonald’s milkshake.”
I loved hearing the frequent “You are one of those lucky ones who carries the baby so well!” I wanted to say back to those people very matter-of-factly, “Well, I put my baby at risk daily in order not to gain weight.” Though I never actually said this, this type of shocking flippancy was appealing. Wanting to reply this way was an attempt to deal with the pain of bulimia in my life. I wanted to cry out for help by hurting others with shocking words. I wanted to appear calloused, untouchable by the horror of what I was intentionally doing to myself, and thereby, the baby inside me. The truth of the matter was, I was not one of those who had a hard time gaining weight during pregnancy. Quite literally, by my own hand (that went down my throat daily) I gained seven pounds.
But God saw fit to give us a healthy baby girl 9 months later. And that is when I knew, with all certainty. that I would NEVER do it again! Thank you Jesus for my little baby motivator! Now that I see her I am free. Surely it is over with, I thought as I stared at my sleeping little girl. For her sake it was done. Amen.